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The Westminster Bi-Line

Boys and Girls swimming perform well at state meet

The swimming and diving A through AAAA state meets this year took a series of unusual turns.  Coaches, swimmers, and spectators were left with feelings of frustration, disbelief, and anger. These unusual turns, however, ultimately weren’t enough to ruin the the CatFishs’ chances, with the boys placing in the top five and the girls taking the state title.

“The meet was very strange,” said coach Bridger Bell. “But the swimmers dealt with [setbacks] very well and showed great resilience.”

An unexpected disqualification during a key event weakened hopes for the Wildcats.

“We were neck-and-neck with Pius halfway through the meet,” said junior Lilly Nunnally. “[Junior Nicole Stafford] won the 100-fly, which was a major step in securing our state championship. But right after the race we learned that she had been disqualified for flinching on the block. It was a major setback, and we thought we were out of it, that there was no possible way to win.”

“It was a questionable call, despite a great swim,” said Bell.

After the disqualification, the meet became even more strange.

“Within the next 10 minutes we learned that Pius had been cheating,” said Nunnally. “One of Pius’s girls had been placed in three relays and two individual events, but you can only swim in two relays and two individual events. After the officials learned this, Pius lost the points for every event that girl had swum in and she was unable to continue swimming in the meet.”

The girls suffered a major setback when senior Katherine Kerman’s infected tonsils prevented her from swimming in the meet.

“I tried to get in the pool Friday to warm up for prelims,” said Kerman. “I was struggling so much and found that I could hardly breathe.”

However, senior swimmers Mason Adams, Rachel Astles, Nicole Dayhoff, Michael Eriksen, Darren Godsell, and diver Frank Love, juniors Lilly Nunnally, Erika Redding, and Nicole Stafford, sophomores Sam Beadles, Gabriel Bellot-McGrath, Maddie Downs, William Stith, diver Laura Barber, and freshman Katie Christy all represented the Wildcats in the state finals on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Although the boys did not win the state title, they were not disappointed. Only ten swimmers qualified for the state meet, thus the Cats were greatly challenged in their pursuit to defeat rivals like Wesleyan and Marist. Nonetheless, many swimmers set personal records, including Adams and Godsell. Additionally, Love finished his Westminster diving career with an individual state championship in diving.

“There were no disappointments with the boys,” said head coach Pete Higgins. “Everyone swam well.”

“The boys performed well individually, but we did not have the depth to get the team finish we hoped for,” said Bell.

Of the 48 events that the boys swam in, 19 were personal-best times.

“Due to the light numbers, fatigue set in, but it’s a lot easier to push through when you have your team behind you no matter what,” said Adams.

The last relay of the meet, the 400-yard free relay, was the last swim as a Wildcat for many of the senior boys.

“It is my favorite part of the meet. It is the time to show other teams what you’ve got. Being on a relay with [Godsell and Eriksen], the other two captains, and [Bellot-McGrath], was an unforgettable experience,” said Adams, “We had been through a lot together and all of that culminated to one relay for us.”

The state meet is held annually in a downtown Atlanta center, and this year was no different with over 85 teams piling into the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center (CRC), the same pool that hosted the Olympics in 1996.

“Everyone was really excited to compete and do their best,” said Downs. “We were just really pumped to win.”

That is exactly what the girls did, winning by a close 16 points over Lambert High School and 56 points over the third-place team, St. Pius X. Individual victories by Stafford in the 200-yard free, Astles, Redding, Downs, and Christy in the 200-yard free relay, and Christy in the 100-yard breast helped the girls bring home first place overall.

“We brought our ‘A’ game and the results showed,” said Downs, “We really deserved the win.”

Notably, Christy was also the only four-medal winner with three gold medals and one bronze, which added up to 36 individual points. Another key element in the girls’ victory was Barber’s 11 dives with a sprained ankle that earned the girls 14 points and placed her fifth overall in the state diving finals. Her placement ahead of the Lambert diver was crucial to the girls’ 16-point lead.

“Diving with a hurt ankle was hard, of course, but I felt like I had put so much work into this season,” said Barber. “I didn’t want to let down the swim team or my coaches.”

The girls’ hard work with the help of St. Pius’s GHSA rule violation allowed the Wildcat girl swimmers to walk away with their 20th state championship.

“It was unreal,” said Nunnally. “Although it initially felt bad to win because of another team’s disqualification, their  unsportsmanlike reaction to the loss proved that the right team did in fact win.”

The meet’s success gives the coaches high hopes for the future.

“I’m excited about next year,” said Higgins. “We are going to try to institute some rather interesting changes. We are going to challenge our returning swimmers to get themselves better equipped and better prepared to swim fast.”

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